Imagine the uproar if universities introduced ‘Good Girl’ workshops

Barbara Hewson

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Topics Feminism

Today, Indonesia’s military announced its intention to continue to subject female recruits to virginity tests. According to a spokesman, this is necessary to ensure women soldiers have the right mentality, and are not ‘naughty’. Human Rights Watch immediately denounced the tests as discriminatory and demanded that they be abolished. Meanwhile, in Oxford, the principal of Somerville College bemoans what the Daily Telegraph calls an ‘epidemic’ of sexual harassment and intimidating behaviour towards female students. It’s strange, but I am not aware that county courts are inundated with student claims of sexual harassment, a staple of employment tribunals. So what is going on?

These two episodes have more in common than you may think. They both evince an intense anxiety at the prospect of women being out and about in the world on the same terms as men. Both treat the world as a perilous place for women, who are deemed fragile and weak.

It’s ironic that Muslim fundamentalists and modern Western feminists have so much in common. Their views of the sexes are hopelessly anachronistic and reductionist. Oxford University, a hotbed of radical feminism, is now so exercised about the prospect of sexual and social interactions between students, it might as well insist that women be segregated at all times.

Last week, the High Court dismissed a claim by an ex-student, Elizabeth Ramey, that the university’s anti-harassment policy was unlawful and discriminatory because it mandated that allegations should only be investigated by campus authorities in certain circumstances. As the judge explained, the policy had been introduced after Ramey graduated, so she had no legitimate interest in taking the university to court. Ramey, who claimed to have been raped in 2011, had reported the incident to law enforcement authorities, who investigated but decided the case did not merit a criminal prosecution.

Why are students expecting universities to investigate such allegations? And, absent a prosecution, what was the university supposed to do for Ramey? It’s common sense that students must not assault each other, or damage each other’s belongings, or plagiarise each other’s work. But university students are adults, and it is unrealistic to expect the university to police all aspects of their lives, including their private life. Employers do not do this.

Only a few days ago, male rugby players at Oxford were ordered to undergo training in ‘positive masculinity’ at so-called Good Lad Workshops, without which they would not be permitted to compete in the inter-varsity rugby league. Imagine the uproar if women students were required to undergo tuition in ‘positive femininity’ – a Good Girls course – as a precondition of competing in university sports.

The thinking behind the Good Lad workshops is extraordinarily insulting to male students. It implies that they are all potential rapists, who must undergo moral instruction before they are deemed fit to participate fully in university life. It’s a depressing reflection on the student feminist mindset that men are viewed in such a contemptuous fashion: a kind of reverse sexism. It’s high time male students challenged such an overtly discriminatory measure, which has nothing whatsoever to do with sports, and everything to do with imposing a gender agenda.

Barbara Hewson is a barrister. Her views here are personal.

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Topics Feminism